K.Flay’s new EP, Eyes Shut, is a response to apathy. Thematically, the disc’s five tracks offer a dialogue about what it means to care—and not care—in the twentysomething era. K.Flay, the moniker for San Francisco-based musician Kristine Flaherty, reacts to this generational indifference musically. Her spit-fire rhymes and distorted indie-electro production are infused with unabashed passion and thoughtful concern.
Flaherty, who grew up outside Chicago and launched her music career while enrolled at Stanford University, arrived at this subject matter after spending nearly a year touring the country solo. Although she was opening for artists like Passion Pit, 3OH!3 and Wallpaper, Flaherty took the stage alone each night, urging a deep sense of introspection that initially resulted in a mixtape called I Stopped Caring In ’96. The mixtape, which Flaherty self-released last spring, initiated the writing process for Eyes Shut.
“I spent my first few years making music just messing around, not really having a sense of what I was about,” she explains. “With the mixtape, I started to realize my vision for the project. I made it in isolation, which was liberating in a creative sense. The songs on this EP start where the mixtape left off and reflect where I’m at in my own life now. There are no love songs. It’s really about a mindset, a perspective. A lot of the people I know are pretty apathetic and disillusioned. They’d rather check out than engage in something. I’m drawn to that myself at times and at other times I’m repelled by it.”
Isolation is a theme in Flaherty’s creative process. She is a songwriter, musician and producer, who works alone on many of her tracks from conception to completion, sometimes in her mother’s basement.
The five tracks on the EP were written during the spring and summer of 2011, with most of the recording occurring in September. Influenced by a diverse array of artists including OutKast and Lykke Li, the EP is an innovative combination of hip-hop, electronica and indie rock aesthetics, all bolstered by Flaherty’s undeniable rapping ability.
The K.Flay live show shines through the recordings as well. “Until recently my recorded stuff hasn’t captured what I’m trying to do,” Flaherty says. “It’s only been in the last nine months that I’ve honed in on that. You hear ‘white girl rapping’ and you get wary. But the live show has really shown people what I’m about and the production aspect of what I do. So with the EP it was about how I can replicate that accurately in a live setting.”
The EP is a precursor to K.Flay’s debut full-length, which she hopes to release in the first half of 2012. Meanwhile, between writing, recording and touring, the musician, who recently performed at San Francisco’s Outside Lands Arts & Music Festival, has been sharpening her production skills by remixing other artists, including Beastie Boys, Young the Giant, Walk the Moon, and Oh Land. And she’s not touring quite so solo anymore—Flaherty recently added a drummer to the mix.
“I feel like I’m taking the next step,” she says. “I’m in the process of taking something that was just nascent and, with the help of a few people, starting to flesh it out a little more. It’s been a real year of growth.”
Flaherty may write about apathy, but she’s anything but apathetic.